Disinfecting denial and secrecy

Pontifical Secret Pandemic Lessons

Title: Disinfecting denial and secrecy

Author: Nuala Kenny

Publisher: LaCroix International

Date: 29JUN2020

“Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known” (Matthew 10, 26-28)

Courageous proclamation of the “good news” of God’s love for us is the heart of Jesus’ mission. He is unwavering in acknowledging the truth of this mission, even at great personal cost. And he is relentless in denouncing denial of the truth of God’s love.

The infection of Silence and Secrecy

Silence, secrecy and denial have been evident at every level of the clergy sexual abuse crisis – from the abuse of individuals to leadership’s response to victims’ stories and its minimization of the harm done, as well as its pursuit of gag orders, non-disclosure agreements and active cover-up.

Persistent focus on individual offenders; blaming the sexual revolution of the 1970’s in the West; and slow acceptance of empirical research on the dynamics and magnitude of the harm have contributed to inadequate leadership response to victims and failure to address underlying systemic and cultural beliefs which fostered the abuse.

Breaking the silence did not come from examining communal conscience in light of medical and psychological research on the profound damage of sexual abuse of minors. Public revelations of this longstanding scandal resulted from external forces of civil legal proceedings, separate from canon law, and investigative journalism.

A Church culture of silence and secrecy – from the “pontifical secret” applied to abuse and the “seal of confession”, to the strategy of avoidance of scandal, in order to protect image and reputation and special status – made admission of wrongdoing difficult.

Silence and denial in the abuse crisis have been diagnosed as a life-threatening infection of the Body of Christ.

Since its emergence in December 2019 the devastating COVID-19 virus has dominated the media globally. It has forced the still festering clergy sexual abuse crisis from the headlines, but provides many lessons on infections.

Lessons from the pandemic

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